Magi is a superpower/adventure show, loosely based on the anthology of the Arabian fairy tales A Thousand and One Nights. It later on blends in elements from other cultures as well, so at least on a superficial level it has variety in its locations and backgrounds. The protagonists are Aladdin and Ali Baba (friends, not enemies), who are looking for fabled treasures inside magical caves full of traps and wonders. Yet their dungeon crawler adventures are soon halted by various bad guys who are out to torture people and make money.
- Animated by A-1 Pictures, a studio with very good production values and behind many famous anime. None of them are amazing though and they love to turn to silly fluff even the most serious and dark stories.
- Directed by Masunari Kouji, who has made several silly anime, most of which are enjoyable to the most part, but none are anything particularly great.
- Based on the manga by Ootaka Shinobu, who has also drawn and adapted Sumomomo Momomo. I don’t like her art style and her stories are too light and goofy for my taste.
It is an eye-catchy show with a lot of antithesis between cheery bright colors of fluffiness and dark depressing colors of agony and thriller. It doesn’t look particularly great for any given reason and even the songs are simply ok. It covers all the basics of a good teen adventure but rather waters it a lot more than it should with goofball comedy and light fan service.
A thing that Magi does very well is to have a sense of adventure, as every new place they go to has its own style and themes that need exploring and dealt with. It is indeed like those old fairy tales that was making your imagination go wild. A thing that doesn’t do so well is to be anything more significant past that. You see, it tries desperately to be many more than just that. It has high amounts of boob jokes, violence, and crazy villains who love to torture people for fun; thus expands to social commentary, morals, and even respecting the lives of those weaker than you. These themes are simply there, not really looked into past mentioning them and dealing with them in a black or white manner. Basically, the show has a very naive morality thrown amidst a setting that would normally require far more realism and grey handling. It’s like trying to solve world hunger with the power of friendship.
Speaking of power, there are dozens of magic items in the show that contain genies and other sorts of powerful forces that can be used in battle. Aladdin for example has a magic flute that summons a huge genie to aid them when they are in trouble, but he refrains from using it unless it is of grave importance since it feeds from Aladdin’s… stomach. Nice excuse to make the protagonist need of eating a lot for a change. In a similar fashion many other characters have such items that they use to achieve their goals.
A thing that will disappoint most is that the show ends prematurely. Although the anime went for an original ending, it still feels like it left out a lot of side stories and revelations. So in case you expect a long storyline that will end in a satisfying way… stop hoping.
So what goals and objectives does this show have anyway? Well, more or less every ambitious person in this world wants to get on his hands these magic items that he will use in order to become a powerful emperor, or to help his people. You have both selfishness and selfness at play, and they are presented in a most polarized manner. The bad guys are one dimensional assholes with no redeeming qualities and the good guys are saints who are already picture-perfect. That makes characterization to feel very shallow and in many cases irritating. You won’t believe how dumb everybody behaves or how many times I wanted to punch Aladdin in the teeth for acting like a 10 year old girl scout who wants to share rainbows and unicorns with everyone.
Not that he is as pure as he seems, since he and most others in this show are horny deviants who love to fondle breasts. And the camera never misses the chance to zoom on bare legs. It’s light fan service but it’s there all the time! I can’t say it adds anything to the context, since nobody seems to be “having any” out of screen. There is also a rather high amount of blood, torture, mention of rape, slavery, skeletons, and other creepy stuff to make the whole show to appear even darker.
Of course it is still light as heck, since as I said it is still black or white all the time and the characters turn to deformed blobs all the time for the sake of silly comedy. There is nothing you can’t magically fix if you have enough firepower on your side. It is very disappointing to see so many grim and serious situations to be solved just by Aladdin blowing his flute and summoning his genie to save the day and dance happily with everyone around the campfire. So the build up to every major conflict in this show may seem serious and dark but the resolve is always rushed, convenient, and always soooo cheery that seems completely out of place with everything else going on in the background.
As far as said build up goes, it is very good for such a type of a show. There are these empires, and those evil kings, and gangs of criminals, and they all look for a man to unite them all, and boobs, and spells cast by huge nipple-piercing genies. It is going to look brilliant in the eyes of 10 year olds, especially in our current years when most new shonen are total crap. So in a way this is like a bit darker Fairy Tail, but still immature and superficial. Although it can be a nice time waster thanks to its lively adventures and good production values, it just lacks something noteworthy to remember it for, and thus next to other titles such as Hunter X Hunter and Full Metal Alchemist, it is nothing but a “watch once and forget” type of anime.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 2/2 (looks like a fairy tale)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 1/2 (typical)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (open)
CHARACTER SECTION: 4/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 1/2 (way too good or way too evil)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 0/2 (none; the show is incomplete)
VALUE SECTION: 3/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of the simple plot)
Memorability 2/4 (I liked the setting and the themes but the presentation is weak)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Art 1/1 (looks like a fairy tale)
Sound 0/2 (sounds meh)
Story 1/3 (feels epic but plays out childishly)
Characters 1/4 (way too good or way too evil)
I personally was intrigued by an Arabian Nights theme, but then I grew to love these characters. The story is very original, drawing from the 1001 Nights without following it directly. Aladdin is an adorable character who is quite easy to laugh at, along with Alibaba. As the story progesses, more characters are introduced, making the interactions better, and much much funnier.
Ever since the Anime adaptation of "Hunter x Hunter" ended, I have had a massive feeling of emptiness in my heart that has never truly been filled up by any other Shounen type series. And for a long time, it felt like I would never truly find a series of the same genre and demographic that could move me in a similar manner, or feel on as epic a scale as Yoshihiro Togashi's masterpiece.
However, after a lot of suggestion from my girlfriend, a close friend of mine, and the Anime community, I finally decided to check out this show, and I have a lot of thoughts to give on it. So without further delay, let's take a look at this little series.
"Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic" (and it's sequel season "Magi: The Kingdom of Magic") is the Anime adaptation of the on-going Shounen Manga series of the same name created and illustrated by Shinobu Ohtaka. Since its debut in 2012, "Magi" has become an instant hit, with many claiming it to be one of the freshest and amazing pieces of work ever created within the Shounen demographic.
This review will cover both seasons of the Anime, and examine the show as a whole, as I really don't feel like writing out an identical wall of text for both seasons.
So how is "Magi"? Well, let's take a look...
The premise of "Magi" is rather simple. The story follows a young boy named Aladdin, who after being alone for most of his life, begins to travel the world to find himself. During his travels, he meets a young man named Alibaba, who's main goal is to one day capture the dungeon of Amon and takes its treasures for himself. Eventually, the two become close friends, and capture Amon together, meeting a girl named Morgiana and defeating some bad guys along the way, and everyone becomes separated, hoping to one day meet each other again.
While searching for Alibaba, Aladdin learns that is a Magi, a rare breed of Magician who have the power to not only use their own Rukh (the energy that is used in casting magic), but the Rukh of everyone and everything around them. Throughout history, Magi's have always chosen Kings and leaders, and have been responsible for founding many nations and kingdoms throughout the world. However, there have always been only three Magi's in every era, and Aladdin is an unheard of fourth Magi.
The story then follows Aladdin as he tries to come to grips with accepting his destiny as a Magi, and Alibaba as he attempts to save his home country from a dictatorship and a civil war that threatens to destroy all he loves and adores.
The premise is very well set up and is incredibly intriguing. It is very unique for a Shounen series, in the sense that it has a great deal of focus on its world and characters, as opposed to a story that is used as a template to create convenient fights between the characters. It is a great premise that promises a lot of things and sets up a world that is both captivating and unique.
An interesting and well constructed world:
One thing that makes "Magi" really stand out from its peers, is the unique world that has been constructed by Ohtaka. The world is strongly based on old Arabian tales, but despite this obvious influence, the world manages to stand on its own two feet. It is filled with magic, it is bustling with energy, and it really feels like a lot of effort and thought were put into constructing it. Most Shounen series suffer from the problem of creating a world, and then not doing too much with it. "Bleach" for example, is a world about Soul Reapers and Hollows and what not, but the world is just an excuse for awesome and flashy fighting to happen. "Naruto" is a world of Ninjas, yet the Ninjas themselves couldn't be further from what a Ninja actually is. "Magi" on the other hand, feels like an authentic Arabian setting. On top of this authentic feeling, the world itself is beautifully constructed, and has a lot of interesting ideas floating around in it, as well as a rich history that is very detailed and relevant to the story line.
But the above things mentioned, are all set up. How about the actual story of "Magi"? Well, it is fairly good, albeit a little cheesy sometimes. The story is, for the most part, very well written, with a lot of interesting twists and turns when necessary, and a lot of dramatic moments where the audience simply can't wait to see what happens next. There are a lot of well written scenes in this Anime, and the quality of storytelling is very good for the most part.
That being said, there are a few moments where things can get a little cheesy. Although it's something I've come to expect from the Shounen demographic, there are a few cases where "the power of friendship" comes into play to resolve conflicts. I've never been a fan of "friendship conquers all" and I don't consider it to be good writing in the slightest. That being said however, it is far from the worst use of it I've seen, and it doesn't happen often enough for it to be a major issue, but it does at times damage what is otherwise a very well written and dramatic storyline that is among the best I've ever seen from Shounen Anime.
The battles in the series are also very entertaining, with the whole Rukh and magic concept being very fun and interesting. The battles aren't all that smart, or involve a lot of tactics (aside from a few instances near the end of season two), but they are still entertaining as hell, which is a win in my book.
Dramatic shifts in tone:
However, one thing that occassionally bugged me with "Magi" is its very strange way of shifting the tone of its world and its themes. The tone of the series has shown to be very incosistent sometimes. What do I mean by this?
Well, at one moment, we could have a scene where one of the main characters, who is a female slave, is being brutally beaten, and the villain is practically saying he's going to rape her and make her "pop out babies" continuously, but in a previous scene, we have Aladdin and Alibaba drinking and picking up chicks in a tavern, acting like this stuff doesn't even exist in their world.
Then we have lots of political intrigue in the form of an uprising from the citizens of a city, trying to overthrow the government, then shortly after, we have lots of fan-service with tits and ass.
I understand the need for comedy in a series, and I don't particularly mind it that much, as I find the humour funny. However, it sometimes feels like the series doesn't really know what kind of tone it's trying to go for, whether it be the dark and serious tone of "Attack on Titan" or the hilarious and comedic tone of "Gintama". "Magi" instead chooses to throw itself directly in the middle of these two constrasting tones, which is a little weird.
In regards to the pacing of its story, "Magi" is also very hit or miss. The initial episodes of the series are simply there to introduce the characters, and go by rather fast. However, these episodes at times feel a little too fast. After this, we have some very short and quick arcs, which are summed up in a few episodes, which again feels too fast. Then we get to the Balbadd Arc, which is essentially the meat and bones of the first season, and is very well paced. After this, the series pacing becomes just right, with everything feeling not too fast or too slow.
The main reason for the brisk pace at the beginning was due to them condensing so many chapters into a few episodes. I assume they did this so they could get straight to the Balbadd Arc. Why didn't they simply add more episodes to the episode count?
However, despite the slight issue with the pacing, I have little to complain about. It was still far better paced than most Shounen adaptations, and there was no filler to be found in sight, so it could have been far worse.
Unfortunately, due to the Manga still on-going, the second season of "Magi" ends on a cliffhanger. The ending is certainly a very satisfying conclusion, and it is worth all the build up, with an enjoyable journey towards it, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions lingering that simply cannot be answered without reading the Manga. I know I could go read the Manga, but I will remain adamant about my usual point which is: no Anime should ever force its audience to go read the source material.
"Magi" definitely needs to be adapted more. A third season would be very nice, and I really hope it comes back some day.
All in all, the story of "Magi" is fairly good. It's not the shows strongest point, and it's not the best written thing in the world, but it is still far above average, and if you can see past its glaring flaws, you'll have a very enjoyable time with it.
But what really drives "Magi" is not its story, but its characters. The characters are very well written and enjoyable to follow. I will detail the main cast below:
Aladdin: Aladdin is one of the two protagonists of "Magi" and is one of the legendary magicians known as a Magi. He is a young boy, who spent most of his early life in solitude, with no friends, until one day he met Ugo, a Djinn creature, who became his first friend. Aladdin now travels the world with Alibaba, in hopes that he can fulfill his duty as a Magi, and make the world a better and safer place.
As a character, Aladdin is very interesting. He is fairly unique from the average Shounen protagonist, as he is a lot more innocent, and childish than the stereotypes we have grown accustomed to. Aladdin dislikes fighting, and he is completely selfless, always looking out for others instead of his own well being. He is a very likeable character.
Aladdin develops fairly well as the protagonist. He starts off as a clueless and innocent child, who understands very little of himself or the world around him, and he eventually develops into a very wise and responsible person, who comes to accept his destiny as a Magi, and strives to protect the world and its order from chaos and destruction.
He is a very well written character, solely because he stands out from the rest of the typical Shounen protagonists. He's not exactly Gon Freecss, but he's probably the closest we'll ever get to him for years so he's great in my book.
Alibaba Saluja: Alibaba is the other protagonist of the story, and is a young man with high ambitions to conquer the dungeon of Amon and claim it's power for his own ambitions.
Alibaba is a very well written character, and he is extremely likeable. Unlike Aladdin, he is very emotional in his actions, and he clearly has a lot less innocence to his attitude and the way he does things. Despite this, he is still a very noble man and is good at heart, always seeking the best out of everything and everyone.
His backstory is one of the central focuses of the story as well, which creates a lot of amazingly character driven scenarios with him. This past is very fleshed out and brings a lot to his character.
He also develops very well, eventually becoming a very powerful and strong willed person, who begins to succeed in his ambitions. He is well grounded, and a fantastic second lead.
Morgiana: Morgiana is the female protagonist of the series and is a member of the legendary Fanalis tribe, who once hailed from the Dark Continent (hey look, it's a "Hunter x Hunter" reference). She is a slave, due to her tribe being brought into slavery, however after meeting Aladdin and Alibaba she is granted her freedom and becomes friends with the two boys.
As a character, she is very hard to read. She doesn't show a lot of emotions, which normally, I would consider to be bad writing and poor in terms of character personality, as I find emotionless characters to be uninspiring and boring. However, Morgiana is an exception to this, as she has clear reasons for being this way, due to her life being spent in slavery. The trauma from these events makes it difficult for her to open up to others, but she eventually does so in the form of character development, which is both believable and well handled.
However, despite all my praise for Morgiana, she isn't as fleshed out as I wanted her to be, and she doesn't get anywhere near as much screen time as I feel she should have, especially during the second season, where she isn't seen for episodes. This makes her feel slightly neglected at times, but otherwise, isn't that much of an issue. All in all, she is a good character.
In terms of secondary character "Magi" does a fairly decent job. A lot of them have key roles in the story, and are memorable, such as Sinbad and Hakuryu. However, there are also several who aren't really all that memorable, nor do they contribute much to the story, making them feel wasted.
The villains of the story however, are in their own league. They are all memorable, have great personalities and have interesting motives and goals, especially the Magi Judar, who acts as a sharp contrast and rival to Aladdin.
To sum up, the characters of "Magi" are fantastic for the most part. They are what makes the show what it is, as they single handedly drive the story and move it forward, something that is usually the opposite in Shounen.
Art and Animation:
"Magi" was produced by A-1 Pictures, a studio renowned for having very high production values and producing some aesthetically beautiful series such as "Sword Art Online" and (as much as I hate to admit it) "Aldnoah.Zero".
But how did they do with "Magi"?
Well, the general aesthetics are absolutely stunning, and there is a lot of colour and brightness to the world and its characters. Everything is bursting with a rainbow of vibrancy, and the world itself looks so whimsical.
The character designs are also very nice and detailed, especially their clothing, which fits the setting very well and sets each character apart from one another. The backgrounds are also very beautiful, and really capture the Arabian fairy tale setting the series is going for.
However, despite the art looking fantastic, the actual art style isn't the most unique, and it doesn't really stand out from its peers. Most on-going Shounen series have their own sense of unique style, be it "Bleach" with its super realistic style, or "One Piece" with its cartoony style. "Magi" however, in terms of style, looks fairly similar to "Fairy Tail", almost too similar. It's a little annoying,
In terms of animation, everything moves very nicely, with the animation being great for the most part. The battle scenes especially are beautiful. The Rukh are so fucking pretty to look at. Aghhhhh! However, there is the occassional part where CGI is thrown in, and we all know that CGI ruins animation. Stop doing it!
Overall, the art and animation are very well done, and "Magi" is one of the best looking and well animated Shounen series I've ever seen.
And once again, "Magi" excels in the sound department spectacularly.
The music of the series is absolutely breathtaking. The tracks all sound very authentic to the setting, having that kind of Arabian and "Aladdin" feeling to them, using a lot of flute instruments. On top of this authenticity, the music is well produced and has enough variety to remain satisfying and not get repetitive.
The series has four Opening themes. The first Opening is "V.I.P" by SID and it is absolutely fantastic! The second is "Matataku Hoshi no Shita de" by Porno Graffitti which isn't as good as "V.I.P" but it's still awesome. The third is "Anniversary" by SID, which is again, very awesome. Finally we have "Hikari" by ViViD which again, is fantastic.
The series also has four Ending themes. The first one is "Yuni Boenkyo" by Nogizaka46 (weird name) and it is great. The next ending theme is "The Bravery" by Supercell which is also great. The third one is "Eden" by Aqua Timez which is very good. Finally, we have "With you/With me" by 9nine which is awesome.
The voice acting is also fantastic, and although there is an English Dub, I opted for the Japanese voice track for the first time ever because my girlfriend prefers subtitles. Despite this, I have listened to both versions, and each were very well done, with the characters being portrayed brilliantly in either language and each track being of good quality. However, the English Dub is a little weak in some areas, mostly Aladdins voice actress, due to it being her first voice role ever.
The sound effects are also fantastic. There is variety, there is cleanness and there is liveliness. They are great.
So how is "Magi" as a whole? Well, it's certainly not "Hunter x Hunter" (nothing will ever be that good), but it did help to fill the massive hole left behind by it, if only for a short while, and I think it is a truly excellent Shounen series that has the potential to grow into something amazing if it were to continue as an Anime series.
But even if it doesn't continue as an Anime, as it stands now, it is still heights above your average Shounen series. It may have a few hiccups here and there, but is otherwise a well written story with brilliant characters, fantastic art and animation and beautiful music, well acted voices and great sound effects.
"Magi" isn't going to redefine Shounen Anime, nor is it doing anything particularly new with its concepts, story or characters, but it doesn't need to because it excels in so many areas and is a very enjoyable tale set in a wonderfully crafted world with lots of political intrigue.
Thank you "Magi". You helped heal the wound left by Yoshihiro Togashi's hiatus, even if it was only for a short while.
And now, it's scoring time:
Premise 3/3 - Very well set up and interesting, building a unique world that feels fresh.
General Plot 1/2 - It is well written for the most part, and has lots of epic moments. However, the shift in tone is a little strange sometimes and the plot can be a little cheesy.
Pacing 2/3 - Starts off a little too quick paced, but eventually slows down to a perfect pace that feels just right.
Conclusion 1/2 - A very well done conclusion. However, it ends on a cliffhanger and practically begs for a third season. And no, I shouldn't have to read the Manga.
Artwork 2/3 - Everything is incredibly colourful and vibrant and looks whimsical. Locations are beautiful. Art style isn't the most unique however, and doesn't stand out as well as it could have.
Character Designs 3/3 - The character designs are very detailed, and all stand out from one another. Attention to detail wtih clothes and Djinn equips look fucking awesome.
Animation 3/4 - Very smooth and well animated for the most part. Battle scenes are very well done. However CGI ruins it at some points.
Personality 2/3 - Most of the characters are brimming with personality and are memorable. However, there are a few who really don't need to be there and serve little purpose.
Development 2/3 - Most of the characters, primary and secondary develop well. However, Morgiana could use more screen time and development, as could a few others.
Uniqueness 4/4 - Every character is unique to the genre. Aladdin is pure hearted, Alibaba shows a darker side to himself and Morgiana is an emotionless character who actually has a reason for being so and develops out of that personality.
Voice Acting 3/4 - The voice cast in both languages perform very well. However, the English Dub is a little weak when it comes to Aladdin due to the actress being new.
Music 4/4 - The music fits the setting and events very well and is of good quality and variety. The opening and ending themes are also great.
Sound Effects 2/2 - The sound effects are well produced and bring things to life.
It's a truly excellent series, and one you should definitely check out.
But hey, I actually enjoyed "WIXOSS", and everyone else hated the shit out of it, so my opinion probably doesn't matter to you people.
Now at the top of this review you will see that I did not finish this anime, I watch 12 episodes and then the 25(last) one and then dropped. This is a 6, which means below my recommend standard. I would not recommend this anime. "was it really that horrible" you ask? No, the animations were gorgeous, there was just the right amount of fan service, and it was pretty funny too. "so why would you not recommend it"? allow me to explain in my usual report.
Story: this would have been an 8, the story is interesting and adventerous. HOWEVER, and if you have seen my other reviews then you know that I hate arc/prob of the day style animes. This one was in arcs, which isnt always bad, but usually and like in Magi, it weakened the end game of the anime. I have been reading on some forums and it seems like A-1 studios is really good at making anime look pretty, but doing their own Original Anime Ending, and messing up everything. Case and Point, Magi. 7 for decent, but arc style and not having a particularly strong ending.
Animation: was beautiful, 10, loved it
Sound: had a good number of soundtracks, and some pretty cool ones, voice actors were nice and solid and pretty convincing. 9
Characters: this got a little weird, I just watched Samurai 7 and the characters in that one got a bit weird too, in very much the same way. Sinbad ended up filling a spot that Alibab should have start to fill as he developed, and alladdin, acting or seeming like he didnt know that much, seemed to know more then he should for as ignorant as he sounded. Morgiana was ok, and I watched the last episode so a little spoiler on her character type SPOILER shes a tsudere, and by the end you can tell she loves alibaba END SPOILER
characters were kinda weird right in the middle though, and alibaba was being way too much of a pacifist to be interesting really, it was pissing me off. A good anime has a main character who has the balls, but also the wisdom to do what needs to be done. I was not getting that from Alibaba, I was getting that from Sinbad. which seemed way weird.
overall: the decent but not overbearing fan service, the amazing visuals, and the humor was what kept me in for so long. But due to the way the story ended up(and apparently it diverged from the manga) and the arc style gives it a 6 for me.
I only recommend watching if you are really hell bent on wasting some time for the lulz. in that case just enjoy the scenery the humor and the little bit of fanservicy stuff.
I can't think of any flaws within this show except for maybe Alibaba's way of yelling out obvious statements and making everything sound cheesy......though that's just in the dub. I give the story a perfect score because most shows always make the characters go on an adventure for some super deep reason, but this one lets them go on an adventure just to strike it rich! (And later other reasons) The animation was extremely appealing to me for some reason, the soundtracks were the bomb, and some of these characters were just beautiful........both main and secondary characters alike. Especially people like Morgiana and KASSIM <3 and Judar. Can't forget Judar. Anyway, this show was really, really good in my opinion. If you haven't already, I suggest you watch it. I found it to be worth the watch. True, this is an incredibly short review, but just. Watch. It. NOW.